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Groundspeak Interview

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Groundspeak HQ We were able to get hold of Jen at Groundspeak to interview her for the 101geo blog. Here's that interview - 101geo: Jen, tell us a little bit about yourself how long have you worked for Groundspeak, and what is your own caching experience? Jen: I am the Marketing Manager for Groundspeak. I started in April of 2009 and Groundspeak is by far the coolest company that I have ever worked for. I love outdoor activities, but I had never heard of geocaching until I saw the job listing. The tech + nature combo was a perfect fit for me. I am definitely a quality above quantity geocacher. I prefer geocaches that are creatively placed, but which take a fair amount of effort to reach. I am also horrible at logging my finds. Ive found more than 100 caches, but I think my profile only shows 24. I mean to get better about that. 101geo: The well known Project Ape series has almost completely disappeared (I think there's only one left active, is that right?). Are there any plans for any more large, commercial linkups? Jen: I think its likely that there will be. The Project APE caches gave geocachers a goal to strive for. I think it would be great to have a similar promotion that showcases high-quality caches and includes caches in many more countries. 101geo: As far flung geocachers, sometimes we feel a bit left out here in Australia. Are there any plans to bring any of the US only events (e.g. the GPS Adventures Maze) to other countries? Jen: The GPS Adventures Maze is unique in that we helped create the maze, but we do not manage it. Our partner Minotaur Mazes developed the maze and they manage it today. They have created other versions of the maze for Canada and Arkansas. I imagine they would be willing to expand further, but they need to know that enough museums want to book the exhibit for that to happen. As for other activities, I cant think of any that are limited to the US. We realize we are an international company and we try to recognize that in everything we do. I hope that in 2012, we can have more days like 10-10-10 and International Geocaching Day that bring the worldwide community together. 101geo: Talking about international activities, we're looking forward to our 2nd mega event here in Australia, at Easter next year. The first one, last year at Wagga Wagga was a huge success. The Groundspeak staff seem to be racking up the frequent flyer miles this year, can we expect to see any lackeys visiting Albury/Wodonga next year? Jen: Yes at least one Lackey will be at your Mega. We may have to fight each other for it, though; everyone wants to go to Australia! 101geo: That's great news, I'm sure the local cachers will roll out a good old fashioned Aussie welcome! Do you think any of the alternate listing sites (particularly Garmin's venture, are a threat to Groundspeak? What is Groundspeak's strategy to  stay number one? Jen: I dont think its ever safe to say that a competing site is not a threat. But competition can be a good thing; it helps us to strive to be better. We hope that we will remain number one because we are not just a company, but a part of this community. We listen to peoples ideas and we genuinely care about improving the geocaching experience for all. 101geo: Whereigo doesn't seem to have taken off to the same extent as some of the other aspects of caching. What are your plans for that side of the sport? Jen: In my opinion, Wherigo was ahead of its time. Its growth was limited because it only worked on a few devices. Had it been created a year later, it most likely would have been built as a smartphone app, which is what it should be. Weve tried to focus on geocaching for the past couple of years, but we still love Wherigo and we are discussing how to best bring the experience to the community. 101geo: The relatively new Challenge aspect has been controversial and received a mixed response are you pleased with the way it's being taken up? Are you committed to keeping it running in its current format? Jen: There was some backlash from the community when we launched Challenges, but there are also people who love them. They take geocaching beyond the box (in this case, a geocache container) and bring fun activities to locations where physical containers are not allowed. I hope more people will try Challenges, because I think many people dont realize how fun they can be, but its being taken up at a decent rate; there are 9169 active Challenges today and there have been 140,464 Challenge completions. We will continue iterating on Challenges to try to improve the experience. We will be removing the Action Challenge, since it did not require any proof for completion. People can still create an Action Challenge in essence by creating a Photo Challenge requiring a picture of an action being completed. Soon, we will also add Discover Challenges. These are the most similar to Virtual Caches. People will not know what they are going to discover until they reach the location. They must also answer a question to complete the Challenge. 101geo: Jen, it's an interesting time for Groundspeak the new 'challenge' functionality, constantly updating mobile apps, and an exponential growth in caches. What can we expect in the future from Groundspeak? Jen: We have a long list of goals for this year. First, we need to go back and finish some things that we started. We need to bring Beta Maps out of Beta and perfect some other features. We also hope to improve site usability. Experienced geocachers know how to use all the site features, but wed like it to be more intuitive. A first step for this is updating the new cache submission process. There are a number of other projects designed to improve site functionality. 101geo: GPS technology is improving all the time, making the receivers increasingly accurate. With the number of caches increasing, and nearing saturation point in some areas, do you think the intrinsic nature of the game is likely to change in the future? Jen: I  think these are two different questions. I often think about GPS accuracy. If GPS devices became accurate to 2 feet, what would become of geocaching? I believe it would either become all about incredibly creative cache containers or a GPS manufacturer would make a geocaching GPS device that intentionally degraded the GPS signal. Perhaps we could even do it with our app. Cache saturation may change the game, but I dont think it will change its intrinsic nature. I hope that people will react by hiding quality caches and archiving the caches they own that are only okay. 101geo: Something we're only starting to see in this part of the world, but seem to be increasingly popular overseas are power trails. What do Groundspeak think about this element of the game? Jen: We try to respect the fact that people like to play the game different ways. Some people prefer finding difficult Puzzle Caches that can take a year to complete. Others prefer finding as many caches as they possibly can in a day. Power Trails are great for the latter group. I think that most people understand that the way others play the game shouldn't affect what the game means to them. 101geo: The volunteer cache reviewers and forum moderators are an important part of the community. As Groundspeak grows and becomes a more profitable commercial entity, do you see that changing in any way? Jen: The Volunteers are an incredibly important part of our company and the community. They will continue to be so in the future.  We hope that we can reduce their workload by building them better tools and thus provide them more time to act as geocaching ambassadors. 101geo: Are there any upcoming developments you can give us a sneak preview of? Jen: You can learn more about the Discover Challenge and watch a video here. 101geo: Thanks Jen, it was great to speak to you!

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